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Topic: Politics & Culture

Oppose or Propose? Which do you choose?

march gunsFinding solutions to complex problems is not easy. Which path is more likely to be productive? Would it be to “oppose” individuals and organizations associated with the problem, or would it be to “propose” specific measures to minimize the problem?

The recent protest rallies against gun violence provide an opportunity to discuss this question.

Make no mistake about it, reducing gun violence should be a national priority. The “March For Our Lives” demonstrations held countrywide make clear that the public outrage, sparked by recent school shootings, will not go away. Seeing so many people marching to call attention to the problem is, without question, encouraging. People need to be engaged.

At the Tucson march, there were some voices proposing positive steps to address the problem, with signs urging more stringent background checks, for example.

Far more visible were efforts to oppose individuals (President Trump, Marco Rubio, and Republicans in general) or organizations (the NRA).

To “oppose” or to “propose,” which is more likely to address the problem and reduce gun violence?

This may come as a surprise; but, from my perspective, the answer is “both.”

The passionate voices of opposition will certainly gain the attention of elected officials. Those politicians have one, and only one, priority. That is to win the next election. Given the public outcry, they might finally listen and enact constructive measures instead of kicking the can down the road, as they in 2012 after the Sandy Hook shooting. I have my doubts, though. But we can hope.

My skepticism is fueled by remarks such as those of New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo. He said, “Today is the day we unite to say that the NRA is not going to win. The people of the United States are going to win the day and common sense is going to win the day.”

Unfortunately, reducing gun violence will take more than slogans. (And, of course, my apologies to the Governor if he has undertaken specific measures. Citing his statement illustrates the propensity for easy slogans and is not a definitive account of the Governor’s record on the matter.)

Bottom line? We need voices to both “oppose” and “propose.” We need the passion and the energy of the protestors, but we need to direct that energy toward practical and specific measures designed to address all aspects of this complex problem. Combine the two and we might succeed in reducing gun violence.

Note that we cannot rely on politicians to do this work for us. Sure, it would make us feel good that we have “done something” by calling on our elected officials; but, without further engagement, will that be enough? I don’t think so.

We need to follow the example of Marc Barden. He lost his daughter in the Sandy Hook shooting. Despite that unspeakable tragedy, he was able to overcome his grief and launch Sandy Hook Promise. Take a look at That initiative mobilizes communities to take responsibility for their own safety and does not rely on Washington. We need more of that. (See the essay “Florida Mass Shooting” posted at

Back to Saturday’s Tucson march, there was one protest that was clearly focused on one, central, objective. There were three heavily-partied-out individuals sitting on the curb half way down the march route. Their chant left no doubt as to what they sought. It went like this, “What do we want? Beer! When do we want it? Now!” Unfortunately, the three sponsors of this heart-felt chant were too wasted to stand, let alone march. At least they knew what they wanted.

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